Reiki is a palm healing technique developed in the early 1920s by Mikao Usui, a Japanese Buddhist. As a form of alternative medicine, the technique involves transferring ki, or healing energy through the laying of palms.
Reiki is broadly divided into two traditions, traditional Japanese reikei and Western reikei. There are three types of degrees in both Japanese and Western forms. These are the First, Second, and Master/Teacher degrees. Reiki classes and the teaching of the technique outside Japan are commonly organized according to the degrees enumerated above.
The Shoden or the First Degree reiki classes teach foundational theories and techniques. At this stage, the teacher gives the student numerous attunements. Hand placement positions that are most conducive for body treatment are taught. Completion of the Shoden enables the reiki practitioner to cure himself and others. The Reikei Master/Teacher determines the length and duration of the course. Typical First Degree reiki classes last for four sessions spread over a number of days, some hold two sessions over two days.
The Okuden or Second degree reiki classes teach practitioners the use of attunements, specialized symbols that increases the ki’s strength and the distance over which it can be applied. The attunements create a temporal connection between the practitioner and the recipient, hence, enabling the practitioner to transfer healing energy to the recipient regardless of time and location. At this stage, a particular attunement that generally enhances the use of the specialized symbols, in particular, the capacity of reiki to flow through the practitioner. Passing the Second Degree course successfully allows the student to practice “distant healing”. Reiki students in Japan attain the Second Degree after a decade or two of constant practice under Usui’s mentorship. A majority of Japan-based reiki students sometimes do not advance to the Third Degree.
The Shinpiden, or the master training stage prepares the student to become a master at or to teach reiki. In reiki parlance, the term ‘master’ does not entail spiritual enlightenment. Rather a practitioner at the Master/Teacher degree can adjust other people to reiki as well as teach other practitioners at the Third degree. It is during this stage that the practitioner learns an advanced specialized symbol and performs one or more attunements. The length of the Master/Teacher course depends on the tradition and philosophy of the reiki master giving the training.
Reiki education or the teaching and practice of reiki is unregulated thus, there is much variation in training methodology and costs, and length and speed of completion. Classes are often taught in person but reiki classes are also available on line. Reiki traditionalists often argue that attunement must be done personally to be effective. They assert that distance reiki attunements and reiki “crash courses” are no substitutes for in-person training, experience and patience in mastering reiki.